AMD Brings Radeon Image Sharpening to Select Polaris Cards with 19.9.2 Driver Update

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Here’s good news for AMD owners. Red Team’s vaunted Radeon Image Sharpening feature has made its way to Polaris cards–it’s no longer a Navi exclusive. RIS was added to select Polaris cards with the Adrenalin 19.9.2 driver update. Curiously, the driver notes don’t mention support for Vega anywhere. This is bizarre considering that the Vega cards are newer than Polaris and a lot more similar to Navi architecturally.

What does RIS do, exactly? It’s a simple, low-cost way of getting lower resolution content to look presentable on high-res monitors. This isn’t anything nearly as fancy as DLSS. What RIS is essentially an intelligent, contrast-aware sharpening filter. This takes advantage of the fact that not all parts of the image onscreen are presented at the same level of sharpness. High contrast areas are already sharp: sharpening any further would introduce haloing effects. RIS instead sharpens lower contrast areas, making the image more uniform and taking away some of the softness of the upscaling process. Because it is contrast-aware, it manages to do this without a significant, negative impact on image quality.

While RIS has only just been introduced to Polaris at the driver level, the code behind it is open source. Since it’s a shader-based effect, ingenious modders ported it over to Reshade a while back. I used the Reshade port extensively when I had an RX 580. At 90 percent resolution scaling, contrast-adaptive sharpening produced an output that was very nearly as good as native 1440p.

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The Polaris version isn’t perfect: RIS only works on DX12 titles with Polaris cards–this is a drawback that’s not present in the Reshade port. Nevertheless, it’s good that AMD’s bringing in support at an official level.

Further Reading:

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